Saturday, December 16, 2017

Shake-ups, shakedowns at T&T's State boards


CAUTIOUS: Larry Howai

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In the past few months the Government has made changes, some more obvious than others, to several State boards.

And in a bid to keep operations smooth, it has also extended the appointments of directors at several State enterprises.

The Express understands that while the term of office for the board of Lake Asphalt of Trinidad and Tobago has been renewed, the appointment of its chairman Kuarlal Rampersad has not.

Contacted yesterday, Rampersad said he had not been informed of such by his line Minister Kevin Ramnarine and chose not to comment in the interim.

Rampersad and the Lake Asphalt board came under scrutiny after it awarded a contract to a local company Fastec to supply hardboard, and was being paid millions more than the usual supplier, Brazilian-based Pegasus. Both Rampersad and CEO Leary Hosein denied there was any family link in the award of the contract.

Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development Dr Bhoe Tewarie said at the moment there was no board at the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA). The appointments of the board, which was chaired by attorney Danny Solomon, had expired and unlike some State enterprises were not extended. The appointments came to an end amid much contention between Solomon and his directors.

The Express understands that Solomon is unlikely to have his appointment renewed. Tewarie said a recommendation for a new board is before Cabinet and he expects a decision in the next two weeks. He observed that the terms of two other boards under his purview—Cariri and the East Port of Spain Development Company—had been extended, while the appointments of the other two boards under his watch—the Economic Development Board and the Council for Competitiveness—were being reviewed.

The entire board of the National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (Namdevco) was changed.

Ronald Forde, general manager of the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) was appointed chairman replacing former chair Robert Ramsamooj.

The appointments of Ramsamooj and his board—Dr Rohanie Maharaj, William Archie, Stacy Barran, Deryck Dhanie, David Dolly, Karl Murray and Lillawatti Rastogi—were not renewed.

Forde, who previously worked under Devant Maharaj while he was chairman of PTSC and then minister of transport, now reports to Maharaj again. Forde's team include Leslie Nelson, Farook Hosein, Jainarine Maharaj, Anuja Moohan and Ryan Badal.

The Namdevco board had also come under fire after an internal procurement audit unearthed multiple cases of money being spent without contracts, backdated invoices, over-compensation for projects and contracts being awarded to companies without Value Added Tax (VAT) registration. 

Meantime, investment vehicles eTecK and invesTT had new appointments to their chair after its former chairman Brian Frontin assumed the chairmanship of the Tourism Development Company (TDC). He now reports to Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz who was also his line Minister when Cadiz was Minister of Trade and Industry. Frontin replaced Rajiv Shandilya.

Anand Ragbir, an executive at the National Gas Company (NGC), has been appointed chair of eTecK, while eTecK director Kristine Gibbon-Thompson has been appointed chair of invesTT.

Gibbon-Thompson yesterday confirmed the appointment explaining that given line Minister Vasant Bharat's goal to make invesTT a hub for all international investments she would soon be resigning her directorship at eTecK to focus on her new mandate at invesTT.

A new chairman, Adrian Bharath, was appointed to the National Insurance Board and John Boisselle is deputy chairman.

Bharath replaced attorney Ravi Ramoutar who had succeeded former UDeCOTT executive Calder Hart.

Other directors include Michelle Chong Tai-Bell, Albert Vincent, Harry Hospedales, Ermine De Bique-Meade, Ann Chan Chow, Ruben McSween and Walton Hilton-Clarke. The NIB is in charge of the National Infrastructure Development Co Ltd (Nidco) whose appointments have all been renewed under chairman Hamlyn Jailal.

Nidco, under whose purview the multi-billion-dollar highway to Point Fortin will be built also had a new chairman, Krisendath Ramoutar. The appointments of the Nidco board were renewed with the addition of Reneelise Khan as a director.

At the Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL) former deputy chairman Lester Applewhite  was appointed chairman while former director Sharon Ramkissoon was appointed deputy chairman. The appointments of directors Dr Raphael Sebastien, Lisa Marie Daniel, Christina Rodriguez-Stewart, Stephen Young and Chanan Mahabir were renewed while Stanley St Omer's was not.

Former chairman Ronald Phillip and directors Shaffiat Ali and Rudy Narinesingh had resigned from their positions. Phillip resigned following a call by Diego Martin North East MP Colm Imbert that he be dismissed after an Industrial Court judgement against him from his former employer, the National Training Agency on forgery allegations.

The appointment of Mitra Mahabir to the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) was not renewed when it expired in December. Winston Siriram is now chairman of the NLCB. Mahabir came in for sharp criticism from workers at the NLCB who want him investigated on charges of misconduct against NLCB director Camille Forde.

The Express understands there will also be changes to the board of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC), and the board of the Government Human Resource Services Company Ltd (GHRS) is being reconstituted.

The Express also learned that moves are underway to wind up Alutrint, the company which was set up under the People's National Movement (PNM) to build an aluminium smelter plant in La Brea.

The obvious changes have been Wendell Mottley, former finance minister, to head the Unit Trust Corporation and Larry Nath to the board of First Citizens having replaced Finance Minister Larry Howai as chief executive of that bank.

The Government wholly owns 44 subsidiaries, has the majority ownership of six companies, owns less than 50 per cent of three companies and indirectly owns six companies.